Behind its much-publicised ‘recovery razzmatazz’ – and all the positive data on tourism and house prices – Portugal has one record for 2017 that it cannot be proud of. It is among 20 European countries where the risk of modern-day slavery has increased – and unlike the majority of countries involved, the arrival on the scene of refugees is not the reason.
Explains Dinheiro Vivo, Portugal’s dismal record of human exploitation comes from the authorities’ failure to apply employment laws.
A report by Verisk Maplecroft consultancy cites the “inoperability of authorities to check” laws are being complied with, as well as the “increase in temporary work and accounts of slavery and human trafficking”.
In this context, the situation in Portugal has actually worsened since 2016.
A source for VM told journalists that it had reports of victims of enforced labour, including migrants from Eastern Europe and Africa, in “all sectors of intense work” – including construction and tourism.
In other words, the exploitation of labour in ‘intensive farming projects’ – particularly prevalent in the Alentejo (see below) – is not the only area where modern-day slavery exists.
Dinheiro Vivo carries numerous accounts from workers suffering the scourge, including one from a ‘Bruno’ (name changed to protect the man’s identity) who worked 320 hours in 19 days as a security guard on a wind farm in the north “without being given a place to sleep, wash or eat”.
When it was time for him to receive his salary, the Lisbon-based firm that contracted him paid only “for the hours that legally could have been worked”, leaving Bruno €800 out-of-pocket.
Slave farms of the Alentejo also ‘bad for the environment’
Meantime, environmental association ZERO has highlighted the risks to the environment posed by Alentejo ‘slave farms’: intensive agriculture projects importing cheap labour from outside Europe, almost all of it to live in sub-standard conditions on pitiful wages.
Aside from the risks of modern-day slavery, these businesses are also compromising the environment, says ZERO, due to the excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides in sprawling hectares of greenhouses which damage soil quality and the quality of underground aquifers.